Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dealing with "that" student

We all have at least one! That student who can get under your skin and irritate you like there is no tomorrow.

This semester I lucked out and got three of them in the same class. Back in January I got my new class list, looked at it, looked up at our guidance counselor who does the scheduling and asked her if I had done something to tick her off and this was her way of punishing me. Since then I have endured weeks of 90 minute classes that feel like they take all afternoon. I have scoured the internet, tried everything in my bag of tricks, talked to colleagues, and put out pleas for advice in online forums. Some tips have worked wonderfully and some not so much.

We have just about 3.5 weeks of school left and I think I am going to survive. So looking back on these long weeks I want to share some of my tips, some advice I received from others and some tips from other bloggers.

My top 5 list for dealing with challenging behavior in the classroom.
  1. Have a plan and be consistent. My set consequences are: warning, phone call home, study hall with me, detention, office referral. I wish I could say that I was perfect and always stuck to this but I can think of many instances where I have broken this. I know looking back that it has made things more difficult for me. So this piece of advice is as much for myself as for anyone else.
  2. Don't yell or argue with an upset student. You are only adding fuel to the fire and in my opinion this encourages students to be argumentative with you. Back in the winter I had two students get into a physical altercation in the hallway just outside my door. One student marched himself right down the hall, the other I got to come in my room so as to keep them separated while I alerted the office of the situation. The individual in the room really wanted to argue with me when I said I needed to report the incident. I tried to keep my voice as calm as possible when I told them that I wasn't going to discuss it with them any further until the principal got there. By the time she got there he had calmed a bit actually managed to explain what happened in a fairly calm and respectful manner.
  3. Speak to students privately about their behavior. Calling them out and making a big scene in front of the rest of the class will only embarrass them and often encourage them to act up more to get the attention from peers. That's not to say that you should ignore behaviors either...but if it warrants more than just a quick subtle reminder I try to have the conversation away from other students either in the hall or briefly after class.
  4. Move on. Hand out the consequence for the behavior and move on with the lesson or activity. It seems some kids just look for any attention they can get, even if it is negative. Don't let one student become the focus of all of your attention. It is not fair to the other kids and only serves to encourage them to continue seeking attention through bad behavior.
  5. Don't be afraid to laugh, smile, or share a joke. Teachers are human too and students need the chance to see that. We aren't there to be their friends but I don't think the saying of "never smile until Christmas" really helps to build relationships at all. You can't get anywhere if all of your students dislike you. Just this week a student was tossing his pencil up and down and catching it. I spoke to him requesting him to stop. A few minutes later he started in again, before I could get anything out of my mouth the pencil soared over his head and behind him, he swung is arm back to catch it and smacked his hand off the file cabinet with a loud thunk. Everyone laughed, myself included. Someone pointed out that if he had listened to me he wouldn't have hurt his hand. Another student looked at me still giggling and says "you must really hate this class". I shook my head, "nah...but you have given me a few grey hairs." To which someone threw in the comment that I could name most of them after him. The whole thing took about 1 minuet of class time away. Was it an interruption, absolutely. Would yelling at the kid to listen to me or getting mad at everyone who laughed have done me any good, I don't think so. At my prompting everyone settled back down and my pencil tossing student kept a tight grip on it for the rest of class.
I asked some fellow bloggers for their input on the best classroom management for difficult students. The following was submitted by "Common Core English with Ease"

Every student (and human for that matter) wants a safe environment to feel seen and understood. Difficult students will test boundaries to see if they can provoke you to frustration, anger or even apathy. It is your job to show them that you will continue to believe in them, and enforce consistent high expectations, regardless of their disrespectful or disruptive behavior. The only way to do this is to be consistent and caring.
How? First, make positive phone calls home and write positive, heart-felt notes to students (or parents). Do this as soon as possible (in the first few days of school)! Most disruptive students also show leadership skills so give them classroom “jobs” and report positive news back home. If a difficult student has one good day, call home immediately! Many disruptive students simply want attention so don’t ignore them when they are “good.”

Second, survey the class for the following: Birthday; favorite snack or birthday treat; favorite academic activity from previous year; Non fiction topic, event or person I am interested in learning more about; favorite hobbies or weekend activities; favorite sports teams; desired profession; year-long goal; life-long goal; One thing I wish my teacher knew about me…; If we go on a field trip, I wish we could go to…; if I was a teacher, I would handle misbehavior by…; If I was a teacher I would make time for…; etc. Then, follow up! Use the student’s Non-Fiction topics as the content for assignments, projects or even 5-minute bell ringers. Celebrate children’s birthdays, and incorporate any of their responses into casual discussions or classroom traditions!

Finally, if these proactive methods do not work, handle disruptions with emotional constancy. How? Do no react immediately to difficult behavior: Pause; tap the students desk during instruction; make (non-aggressive) eye contact with the student; Give a whole-class (anonymous) positive reminder of expectations; Say you are waiting for 1- students to follow directions or pay attention; Then privately whisper to student to change behavior or their will be a consequence for repeatedly disrupting the lesson. Then, and only then give a consequence. If a loud outburst does not allow you to follow this continuum, simply pause and say, “That was not appropriate, we will discuss your consequence after class.” Then have a calm 1:1 conversation discussing your concerns, expectations and goals. A weekly conversation to track goals and progress is a great way to manage that chronically difficult student. Find my “Collaborate Problem Solving” approach and behavior trackers to start effective conferencing today!

Be sure to also check out her Classroom Management and Behavior Solution Bundle. You get a behavior tracker, posters with expectations and consequences, and a protocol to follow to help change behaviors!

Have a great tip or resource on classroom management. Feel free to post in the comments and share with everyone else.

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